Don’t Be A Gunslinger

Author: Pat Boutier (Shingo Prize Winning Author, Certified TWI and Coach)

Posted: July 2018

Have you ever experienced the ‘rush’ of discovering the solution to a problem then implementing the change? If you’re reading this blog I’m sure you have. Solving a problem and getting it right does lead to good feelings. For many belts once the solution is implemented they are ready to move on to the next challenge. And the next one after that. A little like a Gunslinger in the Old West. Someone who sizes up their opponent, gauges the moment, draws and shoots. Bad guy down, problem solved!

So what, you may ask? Maybe BBs and GBs should act a little like a Gunslinger. Here is the problem with this approach. To continue with the analogy: After the fight at the OK Corral the Gunslinger has killed the evil-doer, and left him in the street for all to see. The Gunslinger never sticks around to help clean up afterwards. Instead he just gets on his horse and rides out of town. Time to move on to the next problem – and the next rush!

In the business world this same mindset results in an all-too-often repeated scenario at many organizations. Get in, get out, and move on. We get addicted to solving problems, firefighting, being active. At times this is even true within the detail-oriented and structured approach of the DMAIC process.

Always remember that it is the responsibility of the LSS belt to not only find the solution but also enable change. And to also – here is the difficult part – to enable sustainment of that change. This is where the C in DMAIC is so important. The Control Phase is key to sustaining change.

And we know that change in processes come from changes in behaviors, habits and managing people. These types of changes may not be considered by belts who become more focused on the technical side of a project. Thus a Gunslinger problem-solving mentality ensues. And the mindset of ‘solving’ a problem occurs, followed by the next and the next until it becomes a familiar pattern.

Assisting people within that process, to learn and adapt to appropriate changes is paramount, but how? At TMAC we feel a key to sustaining results is to provide the staff within the affected process with the opportunity to learn new habits. In my experience Training With Industry (TWI) can greatly improve your chances to sustain results. More specifically, I recommend TWI Job Instruction and Job Relations plus Toyota Kata, Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata. These are the ‘how to sustain results’ of great LSS projects. All are skills to be developed for supervisors and managers.

  • Job Instruction (TWI-JI) is a methodology to identify what is important and key to a process, it also provides an appropriate method to train others on that process change. This method is designed to establish habits that provide effective one-on-one training. Most people train others the way they were trained in grammar school. Not one that historically strives for 100% quality along with efficiency.
  • Job Relations (TWI-JR) is a methodology that helps process owners and Gunslingers, learn to treat people appropriately, avoiding typical mistakes many of us make when working with others. It is a method to make us think, rather than react, based on respect for those we work with. Respect for people, a key Lean principle that gets little attention when the Gunslinger is all about tool utilization and moving on to the next solution.
  • Toyota Kata provides another key aspect for improvement, recognizing that people are an underutilized aspect of continual improvement which is essential to maintain and improve upon previous gains. Put another way, when people reach their threshold of knowledge, what will happen? Will they reach for old outdated habits and just react? Or will they pause and experiment utilizing the PDSA (PDCA) method to adapt and find a better path? The Improvement Kata provides that methodology so that improvement becomes a habit, to quickly search, experiment and solve the issue in an efficient way. This methodology is best taught by those who have learned it and practiced the additional habit or Kata, the coaching kata. Coaching people to learn the habit of PDSA, not supplying the answer, instead guiding them towards finding it without allowing critical failures along the way. These provide the best ‘Control’ methodology in DMAIC.

If you’ve seen the lack of successful Control and Sustain stages, let me hear from you. Tell me what you tried. Think about after action reports, what was missing or what might have been. Let me know if you used TWI Job Instruction, Job Relations and / or Toyota Kata Improvement Kata and Coaching Kata.

If you want to learn more about these, contact me or any of my peers. Don’t be just a Gunslinger, be an agent of change with respect for people.

More about Pat Boutier:

Pat is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a Shingo Prize Examiner, and is certified as a “Training Within Industry” (TWI) trainer and coach. His expertise in TWI includes Job Relations, Job Methods, Job Instructions, Job Safety and Problem Solving. He was awarded the Shingo Prize for Research and Professional Publications Award (2013) for co-authoring “The 7 Kata: Toyota Kata, TWI, and Lean Training.”


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